After the April 1 tragedy, the city of La Cañada Flintridge released its correspondence with Caltrans.
On Sept. 10, 2008, the City sent a letter to Caltrans expressing concern about the “recurrence of run-away vehicle accidents on Angeles Crest Highway” after the Sept. 5 onion truck crash.
“With the opening of the new Town Center development we anticipate increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic that may also increase the likelihood of more devastating results should such incidents occur in the future ”
On Sept. 24, Caltrans wrote back that “a traffic engineering investigation is underway.” On Nov. 19, Caltrans wrote again, stating that the study would be completed in four-to-six weeks. On Jan. 10, 2009, Caltrans wrote that it needed an additional four weeks, that it was considering improved signage, restricted truck traffic and “restoring the gravel median truck arresters” in the center median on Angeles Crest.
On March 2, LCHS sophomore Malia Mailes presented a 46-page report to the La Cañada Flintridge City Council. The report documented prior truck crashes at Angeles Crest and Foothill Boulevard, disproved a Caltrans official’s claim that Angeles Crest is not a truck route and outlined proposals to correct the problem. There’s a full copy on the L.A. Times website at http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-malia-sg,0,1885516.photogallery.
On March 3, the City sent another letter to Caltrans, referencing a Caltrans letter of Jan. 26, 2009, and stating that the center median was the wrong place for a gravel truck arrester bed. The City suggested a spot to the north of Bay Tree Road, and the center median could then be landscaped as a traffic calming median. The letter also stated that “[t]he City prefers that trucks be prohibited on SR-2 completely. Contrary to previous correspondence we received from Caltrans that alluded to such, our research has verified that this is definitely not the case.”
And then, April 1.
Within the first hour, a dozen citizen volunteers responded. Six auxiliary sheriffs and six from Montrose Search and Rescue guided the traffic and guarded the perimeter. They remained at the intersection most of the night. By that night, Sam Whitefield, a LCHS sophomore, started a Facebook group “to find out what sadly happened Wednesday afternoon.” Over 800 people have subscribed to the group. Sam got the word out about the candlelight vigil and his group became an online point for information.
The next day, federal, state and county elected officials were contacted by the City and by many citizens. State Assemblyman Anthony Portantino announced that he would sponsor emergency legislation to ban trucks from Angeles Crest Highway.
If you look at the City’s website at www.lacanadaflintridge.com, you will see dozens of projects. Some are urgent. Some are not. It is hard to sift through them, there are so many. Not all of the budget information is available online, but it is safe to say that the City has a multimillion dollar budget.
On Monday, the City Council’s meeting agenda called for adjournment in memory of Angelina and Jorge Posca. Also on the agenda was a request to approve the hiring of a Los Angeles public relations firm to handle “the incident of April 1” at the rate of $650 for partners and $450 per hour for associates, for an estimated cost of $12,000. La Cañada is a small enough city that people know what the problems are and what it takes to solve problems. We know that it takes less energy to be vigorous about the solution than it does to pick up the pieces after the fact. How do we help the City to prioritize? To pick the projects that need immediate attention and effective lobbying? These are the issues that La Cañada citizens and the City Council will consider in the coming months.
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident. She is a trial attorney with Law Offices of Torres & Brenner in Pasadena. Comments? Call her at (626) 792-3175.